As promised, 1000 miles of corn fields. My road trip to southern Michigan took me across the prairies of Nebraska and Iowa. Strictly speaking it is not entirely corn fields; for economics and the need for restorative crop rotations there was also fields of soybeans. The continuous rows of crops also included Illinois and Michigan. Occasionally a dairy farm was seen. Speaking of cows, let me backtrack to Arizona and Colorado.
Eastern Arizona and Colorado are the home of beef on the hoof. In Arizona the cattle are truly “free range.” Translation — grazing land, both public and private with no fences. Just think of what might have happened had the cattlemen won the Western range wars. In these lands, if one should hit a cow, one will be hit in return by a substantial fine. In this land, the need for branded cattle is more obvious. Cattle country in Colorado looks very similar but is divided by ubiquitous barbed wire fences. What stands out is that the feed in Arizona is totally natural grass and other plant edibles. It is much the same in Colorado with the addition of hay and the harvesting of the same to get the animals fed through the bitter winters. Vegans and worshipers of Gaea often complain about how we are sacrificing resources on cattle production. They hold that mankind and Mother Nature would be better served if we eliminate beef from our diets. Frankly, in the observed country, nothing could be less abusive or more natural. For the most part, feed is from what is naturally available, and irrigation comes from rain. I feel good when our protein is labeled “grass fed”. I saw no agricultural waste or abuse of the environment.
Back to corn country. The fields are dense and intense. The need for irrigation and restorative farming practices are necessary. The land looks very much the same in either direction East or West of the Mississippi River. I was a little surprised when we crossed the big muddy near Le Claire, Iowa. Due to the late rains and flooding on the prairies this year, crops were planted very late. The result is that crops that would have been harvested by now are still growing as the days are growing shorter. There is no certainty in farming. On the Nebraska/Montana border a major irrigation tunnel collapsed and 100,000 acres under plow are expected to lose their crops. The residents of Winslow, Nebraska were flooded out when the Elkhorn River overflowed its banks in March. The people of Winslow are now considering moving their entire town to higher ground.
Nebraskans are a resilient people. Very little of the corn we saw growing will end up as corn on the cob in our neighborhood supermarkets; instead it will be processed into sweeteners, chips and cereals. It will also be used to make ethanol for gasoline, gypsum drywall, adhesives, cosmetics, added to fresh vegetables, wax paper, wax cardboard, bio-engineered bone and gum tissue, hand soap, varnish, toothpaste, matches, paving bricks, coated aspirin, tires, jelly beans, licorice and molded plastics. Don’t forget diapers. Respect your local corn cob.
Heading east we visited the Presidential Library and hometown of President Hoover, West Branch, Iowa. It’s only two blocks off the highway. It’s free and well worth the visit to learn about a largely forgotten President. We also passed the birthplace of Ronald Reagan, Tampico, Illinois. The homes of many nationally famous figures were along our route.
Next, the result of Obama’s American Recovery Act’s million dollars on the 5000-person metropolis of Buchanan, Michigan.